Ahmed: That guy from Rhode Island

By Abdul-Kareem Ahmed

Coming to college means starting anew. Whatever your reputation in high school, you have the… Coming to college means starting anew. Whatever your reputation in high school, you have the chance to rebuild it. But that doesn’t mean reputations don’t exist in college too. We all have some little fact or skill or trait that we’re known for in residence halls and classroom chatter. You could be that skateboarder, that writer, the guy that’s always traveling or just about anything. As for me, I’m the guy from Rhode Island.

Growing up in Rhode Island was enjoyable. I was a few miles from the beach, and everything was always close to home. Coming to Pitt and going from quaint suburbs to the hubbub of the city was a major transition. I quickly realized how unusual it was to be from the Ocean State and go to Pitt. But I’ve started to appreciate this fact and have since learned more about my state. When you’re from as small a state, you’ve got to know your territory.

Rhode Island has a peculiar history. It was the first state to declare independence from Great Britain and the last to ratify the Constitution. The first military action against Britain occurred off the shores of Warwick, R.I., when Providence residents sank the Gaspee, a British schooner. Indeed, Rhode Island has become synonymous with rebellion.

Of course, Rhode Island is also the smallest state, for which it is probably most known. I’ve heard it being used as a unit of measurement. I guess you can estimate the area of a state by how many Rhode Islands fit into it. How long does it take to drive across the state? A half-hour.

What’s really funny to me is that some people don’t even know it exists. I’ve met people from other states, and sometimes when I tell them where I’m from, I have to explain that it’s one of the 50 states. Sure, that’s rare, but it still happens. “Family Guy” has popularized Rhode Island in recent years, though Quahog, R.I., isn’t real.

The state also has some random qualities. For one, the Environmental Working Group, an organization aimed at protecting public health and environment, ranked Providence as the second best city for water quality this year.

Every state has its highs and lows and its quirky history and qualities. I’m lucky enough to get to experience both Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, particularly Pittsburgh.

Pitt is in the midst of the city, and that gives it some advantages. The large UPMC system permeates the campus and holds a lot of opportunity for pre-health students. Additionally, the public transportation system is strong and convenient. Where I live in Rhode Island, there isn’t much like what Pitt’s campus offers.

Then again, Rhode Island has more green than Pittsburgh — and I mean more grass and parks. Schenley Plaza, Schenley Park and the Cathedral lawn are about all of the grass I know to exist in the general area. Back at home, there’s an open space of turf every few blocks.

Inevitably, each place has its advantages and disadvantages. I’m still from Rhode Island and always will be that guy while I’m at Pitt — and I love it.

If you’re a talented skateboarder, then don’t give it up. If you write beautifully, continue. It’s a strength or characteristic of yours that you’ve acquired or inherited. As you’re probably known for one quality or another in college, why not embrace that identity rather than try to escape it? That is, if it’s a positive characteristic. It’s a way of bringing identity to us students at a school as massive as Pitt.

I always love coming home. There’s a welcoming sense about my state because it’s what I’m known for in college. Last fact: Rhode Island’s state bird is a chicken. Beat that.

E-mail Abdul at [email protected].